Shanahan Discusses Medical Readiness, DHA Transfer at Womack

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan visited Womack Army Medical Center here July 26 for an update on how the Defense Health Agency and the military services are collaborating on the integration of the Military Health System.

“We don’t want to hear about how well things are going,” Shanahan said in an interview after the visit. “We really want to understand: ‘What are the things that are issues?”

Shanahan said he wants to “kick the tires, if you will, and talk to the people who are going to do the implementation, and discuss day one readiness” to ensure problems are mitigated and the proper resources are in place when the first phase of the transition begins Oct. 1.

The fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act transfers the administration and management of military medical treatment facilities to the DHA beginning Oct. 1, 2018. It will be done in phases, and Womack Army Medical Center is included in the first wave of transfers.

Supporting National Defense Strategy

The transition of the administration and management of the military medical treatment facilities, Shanahan explained, will increase readiness and patient care, as well as focus on affordability. It supports two lines of effort in the National Defense Strategy: increasing lethality and reforming the department for greater performance and affordability, he said.

For example, with DHA taking on those responsibilities, the military services can better attend to the medical readiness of their members.

The best practices of DHA will help boost productivity and morale, the secretary said, explaining a further benefit is the cost and security aspect of being under one DoD agency.

Discussions on Medical Readiness

Shanahan said the topics of discussion at Womack included Army medical readiness, and how to fill any gaps in order to generate a higher state of readiness. He said they also discussed the deployments of medical professionals, and balancing the needs of the service with the needs of the medical facilities where the professionals are stationed.

Participants in the Womack meeting included: Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, the DHA director; Robert Wilkie, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs; Thomas McCaffery, the acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs; Army Lt. Gen. Nadja West, the Army’s Surgeon General; Army Lt. Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg; Army Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, Fort Bragg; and Army Col. John Melton, commander of the Womack Army Medical Center.

Shanahan said the Womack talks will be followed up in six weeks with a meeting on the status of the transition, to include topics of procurement, and the workflow in implementing the new electronic health records system.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)